Friday, 17 August 2007

Tuesday at last


I'd been delighted to find plenty of paper towels in the toilets of Kachelofen. A chambermaid's oversight had left my hotel bathroom with just four sheets of bog paper. After a day on the beer, that's never going to be enough. It had been praying on my mind. Would I have to sacrifice my reading material (Die Entwicklung des bayerischen Braugewerbes im neunzehnten Jahrhundert by Emil Stuve, Leipzig, 1893.) for the sake of personal hygiene? Kachelofen's green paper towels saved me from an agonising decision.

But enough about my bodily functions. We'd been around several breweries by this time. Mostly impromptu. Tuesday morning we had two tours of a different type booked: the Bayreuth catacombs and the Maisel brewery museum.

A charming, if slightly shy, young law student took us around both. Not having been told the tour would be in English, her notes were in German. She was often left grasping for an English word. As Andy's German wife Evi (who speaks perfect English) was with us, this wasn't a great problem.

(It's early in the morning and the first coffee of the day hasn't yet kicked in. That's my excuse for the pedestrian prose so far. Should improve as we go on.)

Bayreuther Bierbrauerei and Catacombs
Hindenburgstraße 9,
95445 Bayreuth/
Tel.: 0921 - 401 111
Fax: 0921 - 401 206

The rock underneath Bayreuth is riddled with a interconnected network of cellars. Dug during the Thirty Years War (1618 and 1648), the catacombs are quite creepy. More recently, they were used to shelter from allied bombs during WW II.

There's a maze of tunnels and small rooms, many of which are closed off to the public. It was unclear what exactly they were trying to portray. There were loads of rusty (the metal bits) or mouldy (wooden bits) brewing equipment that would never have been used underground. Directly under a brewery, I'm sure some must have been used for lagering beer. But they wouldn't have been doing anything else down there. All the brewing gear has must have been brought in.

The emergency military hospital looks genuine, as do some of the other rooms occupied by families. But it isn't made clear which is real and what is just window dressing.

The best part of the tour was the visit to the (overground) bar at the end. There we enjoyed the best pale beer of the trip, Bayreuther Bierbrauerei Aktien Zwick'l Kellerbier. Great stuff - pepper, cloves, honey and grass I thought I could detect. You've probably got a better palate than me. I can't do justice to its mouth-filling bitterness. Not some horrible coarse unsubtle flavour. Like fresh basil crossed with northern lights. Hallertauer probably. I don't say that because I can recognise the taste. I'm crap at spotting hop varieties. It's just that every brewer I asked said they used Hallertauer. Educated guess.

The bar is quite minimalist but cheerful enough. After the first couple of sips I couldn't have given a toss if demons were bursting through the ceiling and a lavapit opening between me and the gents. I was in beer heaven. Or maybe "state of beer nirvana" describes it better. Having a bloody good time, in any case. It did also happen to be the first beer of the day. Always a sacred moment.

Maisel's Brauerei- & Büttnerei-Museum
Brauerei Gebr. Maisel
Hindenburgstraße 9,
95445 Bayreuth.
Tel: 0921 - 4010
Fax: 0921 - 401 206

The same young lady then showed us around the Maisel museum. Their old brewery, a solid red-brick Gruenderzeit edifice, was in use until the 1970's, when pruduction was transferred to a group of severe industrial sheds lower down the hill. The contrast is stark. Comparing the brutal functionalism of the new plant with the exuberance of the old makes you question modern priorites.

All the equipment has been left in situ (unlike the catacombs). Perfect for nostalgics like me. I'd never seen the inside of a large lager brewery before and was interested in how it compared to an ale plant. Much is very similar: mash tuns, coppers, coolships, bottling machines. Some items - like the fermenters with thick insulating walls - are subtly different. You wouldn't expect to find Lagerkeller in an ale brewery. But wait a minute. Didn't they say that originally they only produced wheat beer? In that case the Lagerkeller must be a later addition.

The wort coolers have been converted into galleries where a bewildering variety of enamel brewery signs, mostly from long-defunct breweries, are displayed. I only recognised a couple that are still active.

Dolores moans about the size of my glass collection. Consequently, on the trip, I limited my puchases to one tiny (but beautiful) Schlenkerla Bierschnaps glass. To show her what happens when the hobby really gets out of hand, I took a few snaps of Herr Maisel's collection. I suspect one of the main reasons the museum was established was to give him somewhere to put it. Shelves, with glasses lined up three deep like Napeoleonic infantry, fill several rooms. It was quite humbling.

It's a shame that Maisel's brewery pub isn't open to the public. An amazing place. Hang on, maybe it's better that they don't let the rabble in. They'd just break everything. A selection of their wheat beers were available. I predictably went for the dark one. Weizen isn't one of my favourite German types. Maisel's is good example, mind, with lots of clove and banana. Very tasty, in fact. Maybe its high level of carbonation that puts me off.

After some cajoling by Andy, we were let into the VIP room. As well as a bar, it's also where they distill their Bierschnaps. Our guide poured us all shots on a counter retrieved from a London chemists. Some Amsterdam jenever bars remind me of an apothecary and this was very similar. Wasn't my imagination (or wishful thinking), then. Nearly forgot, there's one further thing in The VIP room: Herr Maisel's colection of hats.

You get nothing if you don't ask. "Can I have another Bierschnaps please, Miss?" Look, we'd been there for two hours at this point and drunk only two half litres of beer. What would you expect me to do?


Alan said...

When I write my first novel about a guy who collects beers and solves crime, this will be the first sentence:

Dolores moans about the size of my glass collection.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'm already planning my third novel. The first and second I'll leave until later. Right after the fifth and seventh.

Good to know someone is still reading this stuff. I worry only me, Stonch and Andy will enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm enjoying it too.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'm honoured to have an audience of five.

John, are you who I think you are?

Stonch said...

I'm enjoying it. But then you've already spiked your guns by mentioning me.

There was a guy in the Jerusalem tonight who said he read both our blogs and was very jealous of our trip.

We're lucky sods, Ronbo.

Anonymous said...

Make that an audience of six, three of whom (four if you include Evi) were there at the time. Where's Paul?

Ron Pattinson said...

Steve, good to hear from you.

Yeah - where is Paul? He could make a significant contribution to the size of my audience.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm who you think I am. And what's this "Ronbo" all about?

Ron Pattinson said...

I don't know where the Ronbo bit comes from. Stonch has sarted using it.

Did I tell you I got the day of the Meibock Festival wrong and arrived 24 hours late?

Anonymous said...

I wondered where you were! I believe it's usually been held on Sundays in the past and that this year was the first time on Saturday.

I'll be at the Bokbier Fest in October and will definitely be back at the Meibock festival next year. Like you, I preferred it to the "main event" in October. (For what it's worth I'll also be at the first Brugge festival in mid-September).

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying it too. As well as entertaining me whilst at work in dreary Shropshire, you're educating me in the study of drinking. Keep it up please

Anonymous said...

He is known as Big Ron is Franken.
Or Little Ron if he stands beside Josef and his dream coat.

Lars Marius Garshol said...

You have more than five readers, Ron.

Personally, I'm too envious to comment on your postings. I was in Bayreuth, too, but nobody let me into the Maisel's brewery pub. I didn't find the Bayreuther Bierbrauerei, either.

I did hugely enjoy the Maisels Original Weisse, which is still my favourite weizen. And the Eremitage. So the visit wasn't a total loss.

Looks like Michael Jackson's pocket beer guide isn't enough when traveling. I guess I have to go back to Franconia and do the whole trip over. Since I didn't write formal ratings until we got to Kulmbach that might be a good idea anyway.

I'll stop now.

Ron Pattinson said...

Lars, unfortunately you have to go on a tour to get into the Maisel's pub. It's a wonderful place. Come to think of it, the tour isn't bad, either.

The Bayreuther Bierbrauerei is on the same street as the old Maisel's brewery. Their Kellerbier was fantastic. I'm not sure if they still brew there or not. Looking through the windows, the brewery looks intact, but there was a suspicious lack of activity (or even anyone in the place).

There's so much in Franconia that it would take a few months to get around everywhere. I really want to go back and spend another week there as soon as I can afford it.